The Guardian June 7, 2000


Coal industry needs regulation

As Australia's coal industry continues to reel from another round of 
export coal price cuts, employers have admitted privately to Mick Watson, 
CFMEU Northern District President, that the CFMEU's policy for a united 
national front by the coal exporters in negotiations with the Japanese has 
proven to be correct. Price cuts are wiping out the gains employers 
expected to reap through restructuring and multiskilling.

"The Howard Government has a lot to answer for to the thousands of 
mineworkers who have lost their jobs as a result of the coal owners' 
shortsightedness and greed", said Mr Watson."

Since the Howard Government abolished export controls in 1997, over 30 
percent of the coal industry's workforce has been retrenched.

"The reintroduction of coal export regulations to stop the disgraceful 
selling out of Australia's national interests by multinationals like BHP 
and Rio Tinto is a priority issue for our union when the next Federal Labor 
Government is in power", said Mr Watson.

The union sees the cause of the present crisis that has been triggered by 
price cuts imposed by Japanese buyers as coming from a massive over-
production in the Australian coal industry. Over-production has always led 
to job losses. 

"But there is something we can do to shore up security of employment for 
those presently in the industry", said Mr Watson, pointing out that state 
governments have the responsibility to approve new coal mine developments 
and the extension of existing operations.

"The present system of issuing new leases and approving expansion of 
existing operations is clearly not working. Decisions are not based on the 
wider consideration of the industry's existing capacity or the negative 
impact new developments have on employment and the welfare of mining 
communities."

Before any new coal mine is allowed to open or any new expansion approved, 
an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has to be submitted.

Mick Watson asks that if an EIS is an accepted standard  and the union 
agrees that it should be  why not introduce an Industry and Community 
Impact Statement which takes into account security of employment and the 
economic and social impact on communities.

"Surely the welfare of mineworkers, our families and our communities is no 
less deserving than that of the environment."

The union is calling on the NSW and Queensland Government's to refuse 
approval for new developments which directly lead to the closure of other 
mines or a net job loss in the industry and that existing mines not be 
permitted to merge if the impact is a net job loss in the industry.

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Common Cause

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